I knew when I moved to Austin that I had to check out the Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters. The concept is simple: it’s a movie theater that also serves up booze. I’d heard Chicago has a similar concept happening, but Austin’s Alamo blows this out of the water. Not only do they serve alcohol and the standard popcorn and Junior Mints, but they’ve also got a full menu for those who like to take dinner and a movie all at the same location.
At first, you might wonder if all this chowing down and ordering during the films might turn a rowdy crowd loose, with NYC-style yelling at the screen encouraged. Luckily, the rules are simple and spelled out for newbies by groovy waitstaff: write your order on the slip of paper and place it standing up in the designated pocket. The waiter will come by to take and deliver your order silently, and will place a bill on the narrow table to pay before you leave. Warnings from Homestar Runner are also played onscreen to remind the audience to shut the heck up, turn off cell phones, and refrain from rowdy behavior. Sweet!
For those who do like to talk back to the screen, there’s another bonus: the Alamo’s Quote-Alongs and Sing-Alongs. Seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off so many times you can quote the whole thing from start to finish? Lucky for you, there’s Quote-Along night, where “you’re *required* to yell out your favorite lines, stand up and dance to the best songs from the soundtrack, and play with a series of props that are handpicked for most movies.” For all those who’ve ever seen (and loved) the cult-classic Grandma’s Boy, there’s an upcoming Quote-Along scheduled for December 24. Even if you’re way too baked to drive to the Devil’s house and have a robot vagina, you won’t want to miss this one, Grey Bush.
As the type of person who likes to comment aloud on movies (especially the really bad ones), I’m pretty stoked about the Quote-Alongs, as well as their Weird Wednesdays (where only $1 gets you in) and monthly Dionysium debates (for those who like to get their think on). If you’re a hard-working member of the service industry, you also get a break on Monday-night movies, pizza and pints. Nice!
The menu varies from one Drafthouse to the next (there are four locations in total), but all feature movie-themed menu items such as “The Breakfast Club” (lettuce, tomato, smoked bacon and a fried egg on sourdough with chipotle mayo) and the “Royale With Cheese Burger” (an Angus patty with lettuce, tomato, onions, cheddar cheese, bacon and chipotle mayo). When I hit up the Alamo’s Village location, I tried one of their white wines during a viewing of Where the Wild Things Are. It was kind of surreal to be watching a kid’s book that had been made into a movie for adults whilst drinking wine as a few rugrats got scared to death a few seats over.
The only negative thing I can really say about the Alamo Drafthouse is that if you drink half a bottle of wine while you watch a movie, you’re probably going to have to use the bathroom about halfway through. This isn’t a big deal when you’re watching flicks at home and can just pause the DVD, but it’s a bit annoying to have to sneak out, pee, and come back to your seat. I guess this is probably why most theaters don’t serve alcohol. But then again, they do serve those giant 48-ounce sodas, so what do I know?
All in all, the Alamo Drafthouse is definitely my favorite cinema in Austin, and one of my top hangouts overall. Check it out and bask in one of the ways locals like to Keep Austin Weird.